How do the Afghan forces and the Taliban compare?

How do the Afghan forces and the Taliban compare?

The Taliban now control around half of Afghanistan’s districts, after meteoric offensives in the months since foreign troops began their final withdrawal from the country.
But analysts and officials say their military victory is far from guaranteed, pointing to the capacity and resources of the Afghan defense forces, which still control key cities.

Here’s how the two forces compare:


The total strength of the Afghan national security forces – including the army, special forces, air force, police and intelligence – stood at over 307,000 at the end of April, The United States Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a statement. report last week.

The combat forces available on any given day are probably around 180,000, according to an estimate by Jonathan Schroden of the military think tank, CNA.

The precise strength of the Taliban, on the other hand, is not precisely known. UN Security Council observers said last year the group numbered between 55,000 and 85,000 fighters.


Foreign aid is crucial for Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Its military needs $ 5 billion to $ 6 billion a year, according to the US Congressional Research Service. Washington has typically provided around 75 percent of it and has promised continued support.

The Taliban’s finances are unclear. Their income is estimated at between $ 300 million and $ 1.5 billion per year, according to UN observers.

They generate funds from the country’s huge drug industry, through corporate extortion, other criminal activity and by imposing taxes in areas under their control, observers said.

“Based on the information available… it is clear that the Taliban is not fighting over recruitment, funding, weapons or ammunition,” they added.

Pakistan, Iran and Russia have been accused by Washington and Kabul of providing the Taliban with resources and advisory support, but all three deny the claims.

Weapons and equipment

The United States spent tens of billions of dollars to rebuild and equip the Afghan army after it overthrew the previous Taliban regime in 2001.

Afghan forces have a technological advantage over the Taliban, using a wide variety of Western-made weapons, including modern assault rifles, night vision goggles, armored vehicles, artillery, and small surveillance drones. .

They also have something the Taliban cannot match: an air force. The Afghan army has an available fleet of 167 aircraft, including attack helicopters, SIGAR reported.

On the other hand, the Taliban mainly used the small arms and light weapons that flooded Afghanistan during decades of conflict – such as the Soviet-designed AK-47 assault rifles – while also procuring them from local sources. regional black markets, analysts said.

In addition to sniper rifles and machine guns, the group also deployed rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and other small rockets, while trying to use anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons with mixed success, Antonio Giustozzi wrote. in his 2019 book on the Taliban.

Suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are among the deadliest weapons used by the Taliban against Afghan and foreign forces.

The Taliban also captured and used Western-made weapons and equipment supplied to the Afghan army, including night vision devices, assault rifles and vehicles.

Cohesion and morale

The Afghan forces have seen their confidence tested for years, suffering heavy casualties, corruption, desertions and now the departure of foreign troops.

Poor planning and poor leadership have also been blamed for low morale.

The Taliban have shown greater cohesion despite reports of internal divisions in recent years, analysts say, pointing to religious zeal as well as the promise of material gains as contributing factors.


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